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Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System [Paperback]

Raj Patel
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 2008
We have so much choice over what we eat today because rural communities the world over have had their choices taken away. To understand how our supermarket shopping makes us complicit in a system that routinely denies freedom to the world's poorest, and how we ourselves are poisoned by these choices, we need to think about the way our food comes to us. "Stuffed and Starved" takes a long and wide view of food production, to show how we all suffer the consequences of a food system cooked to a corporate recipe. This is also the story of the fight against the unthinking commerce that brings it to us. In the wrecked paddy fields of India, in the soy deserts of Brazil, in the maize ejidos of Mexico, the supermarket aisles of California, French McDonald's and Italian kitchens, there's a worldwide resistance against unhealthy control of the food system.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846270111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846270116
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'***** With the origins and politics of food such a hot topic at the moment, Patel ensures you are well informed'
-- Birmingham Mail

'Patel's anecdotes illustrate a careful argument... His plea is for a healthier world [and] one that is more just.'
-- Guardian

`Ambitious assessment of the true cost of the global food market - social, environmental, political and, above all, human' -- Daily Mail

About the Author

RAJ PATEL was educated at Oxford, the LSE, and Cornell. A former fellow at Yale and Berkeley, he is now at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has worked for the World Bank, interned at the WTO, consulted for the UN, and been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against his former employers. He is one of only a few activists trusted to work with the Via Campesina peasant movement. This is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing 25 Sep 2007
By bookfan
I searched hard for this book because I couldn't wait for it to come out in the USA. Normally when I work that hard to find a book, it doesn't live up to my expectations. S&S exceeded my wildest hopes for astonishment. Patel's radical hypothesis is that 1 billion starving and 1 billion fat is inevitable to the market logic of capitalism where a small number of corporations control the entire food growing, distribution, and selling network. Poor people are squeezed for every hour of labor, and rich countries are squeezed for every dollar they will spend, leading to an efficient system that runs poor farmers to the edge of starvation, and markets high-fat, cheaply made, poisoned food to the rest of us. Patel marshals an extraordinary range of evidence to show how this works at every level, and where the soft underbelly of this system is susceptible to positive change by grass roots movements. This would make an excellent documentary TV series. Much more enlightening than the other books I've read on this subject. I come away convinced that the greatest moral choice I can make is not how I vote or what I drive, but what I chose to eat.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Having read some of Patel's very highly regarded journalism and academic work in South Africa I ordered this book with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. This book is exceptionally well written and an absolute pleasure to read. But, more importantly, is is one of the very few of the popular anti-globalizations books written from the global South - this book is genuinely internationalist. That's a very welcome relief.

It also brings together a dazzling range of facts and stories, perhaps a little bit like Mike Davis in its sometimes just plain awesome ambitions and scope.

And the actual content of its analysis, the politics of the global food system, is undertaken brilliantly. As far as I know this is the first serious internationalist critique of the global food system and its devastating. But its not just bleak - the stories of resistance are inspiring. It seems that this book will become something like the 'No Logo' for a new generation of activists and critical thinkers. I certainly hope so.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 30 April 2010
I have just finished this remarkable book, and will never be able to look at a supermarket in the same way. I have tried to be an ethical consumer, but this book shows just how difficult that can be in the current market structures. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to look behind where there food comes from. It is very well written, coherently argued, and accessible for those of us with a moderate understanding of economics. Thank you Raj. I'm off to buy your new book now.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener for You and Me 5 Dec 2007
I've found this book amazing. I've read it, and read it again, and got it for the Christmas socks of those who are willing to see beyond the shelves of the supermarkets. If you are a supermarket customer, if you have an opinion on GM crops, whatever this opinion is, if you would like to know more about what you eat and drink, where it comes from and why you eat and drink it, then this book is definitely for you!
Extremely well documented, this is a life-changing experience. I can't wait for the next one. Good on you Raj!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't trust your food to capitalism 22 Jan 2008
Superbly written, well researched, and ambitious in its scope, Stuffed and Starved is an eye-opening exploration of capitalism's logic when it comes to food.
The title comes from the striking fact that Patel takes as his starting point - that there are 800 million hungry people in the world, and a billion overweight people. He proceeds to unpack this fact in the rest of the book, touching on the rise of ubiquitous ingredients such as soy or corn syrup, supermarkets, genetic engineering, and the economics at work behind these developments. I found the sections on the supply chain particularly good.
Patel doesn't need to ram his points home or play the guilt card. He presents the facts and the need for change is evident. Those changes, he suggests, include eating locally, rediscovering food as a pleasure, breaking the power of supply monopolies, and ensuring a living wage for everyone along the chain of production.
As a writer based in South Africa who has worked for the World Bank, Raj Patel is well placed to speak to both sides of the development debate. He has done so compellingly, and I will keep an eye out for anything he writes in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars food ethics and the environment 4 May 2010
This is a brilliant book...details how the food corps direct and manipulate the systems they have set up in order to control prices,distribution and choice and have a direct impact on the evironment, indigenous peoples around the world, soil erosion, dangerous levels of pesticide use, starvation levels, obesity etc etc....
If you eat this book....:-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quick service, good quality 29 Aug 2011
For me, Raj Patel is one of the greatest food-issues writers around because of the way he combines top-notch research with a patent personal investment in the justice issues at hand. This book is, besides from being important in theme and loaded with well-supported data, very 'readable'. Highly recommended on all counts.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lifting the lid on your TV dinner 18 Feb 2008
A sweeping and passionate exposition of the global food system, 'Stuffed and Starved' is a masterly work that underlines why what we eat is so fundamental to who we are.

Patel's book lucidly and comprehensively deconstructs the idea that our current system is the only way, and the supermarket the only viable purveyor, to put food on our tables. He tracks the global food industry from grower to exporter, retailer to consumer, highlighting the many points at which the system is unsustainable, desperately exploitative, and, ultimately, frighteningly vulnerable.

Whether Patel is writing about urban gardening in south central Los Angeles, soy plantations in South America or the tragic plight of rural farmers in India, his voice is one suffused with a deep and lyrical compassion. And it's this humanity - and his hope that, however unlikely, another way lies within our reach - that makes 'Stuffed and Starved' truly special.

The best thing I've read since Naomi Klein's 'No Logo', Stuffed and Starved will shock, fascinate, anger and inspire you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucid and informative
Raj Patel taps into the clandestine world that is behind the food that we eat, from the corn fields all the way to the supermarket shelves. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory reading
Excellent insight into the way governments work to manipulate markets, in particular the USA, but UK and Europe are big players too. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Megamoggie
3.0 out of 5 stars Analysis but no real solutions
I find this a difficult book to review. The first half is an excellent introduction to the economic and political realities of the food system. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Marand
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight the food system
I bought this book to get an insight into the failings of our food systems and I wasn't disappointed. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Malka
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking discussion, but something we need to think about
Patel's dense discussion of the world food system has a number of key points that I think are really important to understanding the problem. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Kate
3.0 out of 5 stars Shocking and horrifying, few solutions
I enjoyed this book to a degree. The author uses a writing style that builds suspense by hinting at information to come. Read more
Published 15 months ago by HJ Haugland
3.0 out of 5 stars Is Raj Patel the Anti-Christ?
The author of this book, Raj Patel, is a left-liberal author from London. Nothing out of the ordinary, except a couple of best-selling books. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Ashtar Command
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
Excellent stuff cogent well argued I am using my local markets and producers and have not been in any of the big four in the last couple of months or any fast food chains either... Read more
Published 19 months ago by farmers marketman
4.0 out of 5 stars new point of view
it's a very sourprising reading about the world food system and a new way of understanding it. very recommendable. well argumented.
Published on 19 Dec 2009 by Rodi
4.0 out of 5 stars Back down to Earth
Everytime someone shoves me in the frozen food aisle at Sainsbury's, or I see a picture Gordon Brown smiling, or another 200 or 2000 troops get sent to Iraq - I think, "Screw it! Read more
Published on 19 Jun 2008 by sookilee
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